Apple’s Product Placement

by Aaron Wright Apr 19, 2006

Just recently I’ve noticed two instances where the iPod has made its TV screen debut. Under a slightly different name, either due to legalities or from a comical view-point, the iPod has been seen in recent episodes of the Simpsons and in Scary Movie 4.

In the Simpsons, Homer’s Father, Abe ‘Grandpa’ Simpson, is ready to end his life in the most comical of Simpson styles with a diePod, a large iPod which plays music — as it does best — to the patient before somehow peacefully killing him. I won’t give away any more on that episode though, I can almost hear people shouting “shut up, I’ve not seen it yet!”

In another reference on film, the iPod is present in Scary Movie 4. In a trailer that I saw a few days ago, the iPod, known as a triPod, appears to be about 4 to 5 stories high as it suddenly looms over a crowd of people in the streets. The screen on the triPod then comically scrolls down the playlist to play a song, Karma Chameleon by the Culture Club. Stereo-typical films like this would have you believe Americans are used to this sort of thing, and of course, begin to dance to the 80’s pop hit. However, it all takes a turn for the worse when the triPod scrolls down to the next item on the playlist which is called “Destroy Humanity.” I assume you can guess the rest?

I’ve noticed in many other TV shows, in the UK at least, that there are an awful lot of references, and appearances, of the iPod or other Apple products such as the iMac. It seems that although the Mac community throughout the world still only holds 5% of market share, it certainly appears to be a large community.

A recent source tells me that in total, Apple products, such as the iMac and iPod - which appear to be the two best known products from Apple — have been featured over 250 times in the past four months on 38 different network prime-time shows, including hits ‘The OC’ and ‘CSI: NY’ totalling roughly 26 minutes of free exposure in the States alone. Add that to the shows in the UK, Australia and elsewhere in the world where an Apple product has made a screen appearance and that’s an awful lot of free airplay.

So how is it that a company such as Apple can get away with this sort of exposure? According to founding partner and CEO of Propaganda Global Entertainment Marketing, Ruben Igielko-Herrlich, it’s because the iPod “never paid for placement because Apple is cool”. He also goes on to the state “if you’re a cool brand or an affluent, prestigious brand, it’s not going to cost you what it’s going to cost fast-moving consumer products like soft drinks or detergents. When you have that kind of image and aura, you don’t pay for it.

This sort of thing isn’t just an Apple-exclusive though. Other companies that appear to be labelled a popular consumer choice, such as Dell and IBM, also get exposure in the same way Apple do, but due to their products looking so bland and, forgive me for saying, similar to others, it doesn’t always stand out. Everyone knows what an iPod looks like, and with recent raving reviews in national newspapers (in the UK at least), most people know what the latest iMac looks like — and lets face it, a large white object with a TFT screen that acts as both a computer and a monitor isn’t something you’re going to just glance at and look away, is it?. Their products are more futuristic when compared to some and they stand out a mile.

The Washington Post says that placement is “often arranged through some kind of barter in which the show provides exposure in exchange for products or services”. From that, I’m forced to ask the question, is it really free then? I guess if you look at it in a literal sense, it isn’t. An iMac costs roughly $900 to produce and giving it away wouldn’t bring that $900 back, but when you compare the cost of that to normal advertising — and by ‘normal advertising’, I mean advertising on program breaks — then it’s actually costing them a lot less but with a similar, albeit not constant, impact.

Clever stuff.


  • Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC Sunday nights in the US) usually gives the family on vacation a Powerbook to use to see the construction going on at home. But the Apple logo on the lid is almost always covered with a Extreme Makeover sticker. It’s kind of obvious it’s a Mac though. The case is very distinctive, and the iSight camera mounted on top is hard to hide.

    planetmike had this to say on Apr 19, 2006 Posts: 23
  • There’s a few makeover shows, or some sort of DIY show, over here that also use PowerBooks to do their work on.  They show people using them and also, as you say, cover up the Apple logo, normally with a blank grey sticker though.  As soon as they pan round to see what the user is doing, you can clearly see it’s OS X and the word “PowerBook” just underneath the screeen.

    Aaron Wright had this to say on Apr 19, 2006 Posts: 104
  • Well, obviously, there is the distinction to be made between parodies, etc. (Scary Movie, the Simpsons) and what is generally described as actual product placement.

    IIRC, in the first Tom Cruise Mission Impossible movie, there was extensive use of an Apple PowerBook. Whether an actual cash transaction took place, or simply a transfer of goods and services, one would have to assume Apple paid for that kind of exposure.

    And, given that product placement has become a significant source of revenue for media companies, one would assume that Apple compensates the producers in some manner, in a similar way that BMW paid to have James Bond drive their car.

    OTOH, you might guess that Apple wasn’t shelling out for “Eat Up Martha.”

    Not to mention, given just how often I notice a Mac of some kind onscreen, I have to ask how clever they’ve been - it’s a lot of screen time for a product that still’s on the low end of 5% marketshare.

    CapnVan had this to say on Apr 20, 2006 Posts: 68
  • heh, you read the article at tuaw before writing this didn’t you smile

    Did you know that, up until recently, Apple used to have a page on their website dedicated to the use of Apple Computers in TV and Film? They openly spoke about it and listed various movies and shows products were used in. I think even with clips. I found a link a while ago pointing to a section on the site, but it’s been dead for a while now:

    The deal these companies, including Apple, make is to lend out the computers for the show production. The show’s producers gets expensive props taken care of, and Apple get free advertising.

    Further info from 2002:,52559-0.html

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on Apr 20, 2006 Posts: 299
  • Luke, the reason I wrote this article was because I saw a video clip for Scary Movie 4 on TAUW and I recently saw the Simpsons episode on TV.  From this, I decided to do a little research and I some-how stumbled across two articles just recently written (both linked in my story).  Couldn’t have worked out better for me.

    I wasn’t aware of the Apple page but thanks for bringing it to light.

    Aaron Wright had this to say on Apr 20, 2006 Posts: 104
  • OK. My mistake, Aaron. Just got that impression from your last paragraph almost being identical to the TUAW article. Rare coincidence, I guess, then.

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on Apr 20, 2006 Posts: 299
  • I can assure you I don’t plagiarise work and if I do I’ll make a link to the original source.  Not to worry though, thanks for your comments.

    Aaron Wright had this to say on Apr 20, 2006 Posts: 104
  • Well, Apple is using media as a marketing tool and they place their products exactly where they can get maxim exposure. Imagine placing the ipod in a James Bond movie. I was reading about such marketing techniques on the Ryan Deiss website. He knows his way in the advertising and marketing field.

    IBMdude had this to say on Sep 12, 2011 Posts: 50
  • It is a very good and informative article about energy indeed. It is great to have such a nice articles about environmental friendly energy production. I hope to see more articles in future……
    Sushi Express

    jia adam had this to say on Oct 26, 2011 Posts: 7
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